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Idea: The Secret to a Successful Sales Presentation is Staring You in the Face


Why do bad presentations happen to good companies?

Here’s a familiar scene: A sales professional from your company gets the chance to make a presentation to a group of potential customers. He carefully prepares a PowerPoint presentation that includes a bullet point for each of the ways your company is special and all the features and specifications your product includes. The presentation begins. With each new slide, the potential customers read the bullet points much faster than the speaker is reading them aloud, immediately throwing presenter and viewer out of sync. Afterward, the speaker hands out copies of the PowerPoint slide deck so the audience can recall important ideas later. But those bullets are shorthand prompts, not detailed notes, so the presentation ultimately makes little sense to anyone when they pull it out to view another day.

Otherwise strong marketers and sellers routinely bomb presentations this way, unsuccessfully delivering lifeless PowerPoints filled with specifications, sales points and statistics. A deck of boredom, in other words. Perhaps no one will ever match Steve Jobs’ mastery at product rollouts — Job’s 2007 iPhone presentation is the presenter’s equivalent of Michael Jordan’s Game 6 in the 1998 NBA finals. But why do sales presentations have lower standards of quality than, say, a really bad corporate website?

There’s an underlying problem with sales presentations that’s true of a lot of marketing: We can’t seem to remember that great pitches aren’t about us or how great our products are. Great presentations are about the wants and needs of the people in front of us: the customer, the buyer, the prospective client. They don’t want to hear our success story. They want to hear their own success story, and how your product will play a part in it. Don’t believe us? Go back and watch the Steve Jobs presentation.

The solution (or even the problem) isn’t with PowerPoint. It’s with how PowerPoint is being used as a crib sheet outline for the presenter. Rethink your approach. Jump over the wall and become one of your customers. Once you’ve blended back into the crowd, ask yourself: “What do we need?” Then make everything you show and everything you say answer that question.

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